Staggered hours worth a shot to unlock city’s roads

Ian Bushnell 14 May 2021 94
Traffic on Adelaide Avenue

Traffic banked up along Adelaide Avenue. The government says staggered hours may help ease the squeeze. Photo: Supplied.

The Canberra Liberals may have ridiculed the idea, but the ACT Government’s staggered-hours proposal to ease peak traffic congestion as part of its Public Transport Recovery Plan is nothing new.

Singapore has had such schemes for years, Honululu trialled a scheme as far back as the late 1980s and most developed economies, where flexible hours are already part of the modern work landscape, are using or considering versions as part of their recovery from the economic disruption of the pandemic.

Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Chris Steel says traffic volumes in Canberra are currently exceeding pre-pandemic levels because people have not yet returned to public transport, a trend seen in other cities across Australia and the world.

Morning and afternoon crunch points across the city, which have intensified in recent times, typically only last for short periods when everybody leaves home or work at about the same time.

Mr Steel is also concerned about the coming disruption from major infrastructure projects such as Stage 2 of light rail in and around Canberra’s city centre.

“We are keen to explore further opportunities to spread out peak demand on our roads network during the morning and afternoon commutes,” he said.

“We want to avoid Canberrans sitting in their cars for 40 minutes to an hour when they could have a shorter, more convenient commute by travelling a little earlier or later.”

He says the government will be talking to the ACT’s employers, including both the ACT and Commonwealth public service, about flexible working arrangements outside of the standard 9-to-5.

READ ALSO: Lawyers say cracks are starting to appear in the ACT’s new CTP scheme

But Liberal Transport spokesperson Mark Parton says it is not up to businesses to be changing rosters and the times people come to work.

“The public transport system is there to support the city, support the community and support workplaces and businesses; not the other way around,” said Mr Parton.

“Workplaces aren’t there to prop up the public transport system, and it’s ridiculous to believe that could ever be the case.”

He also says cafes and restaurants need to open at certain times to serve their customers and don’t need extra pressure from government to recover from the pandemic’s impacts.

But in a public service city like Canberra, the idea is worth a shot, and it is doubtful whether Mr Steel is banking on cafe staff to help free up the city’s roads.

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Mr Steel says no business will be required to make these changes, and the government is starting with its own workers.

“The ACT Government has already commenced scoping of options for more flexible working for our own employees, building on practices adopted during 2020,” he says.

“We will also be engaging with major Commonwealth public service agencies and businesses based along the light rail route. The past year has shown that employees can be very productive without working a strict 9-to-5 day, so we are optimistic that employers will embrace practices that help spread the peak.”

Mr Steel says the government will also be talking with other employers over the coming months.

“We want to understand what is going to work best and how our investments in public transport can work in partnership with other initiatives to keep Canberra moving,” he says.

Getting people back on the buses and light rail is still the main game, and the idea has its pros and cons, but it is far from ridiculous.

Mr Steel might also argue for staggered hours to allow Access Canberra shopfronts to operate from, say, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, so people can get chores, like renewing a driver’s licence done, before or after work, again something that is possible elsewhere.

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94 Responses to Staggered hours worth a shot to unlock city’s roads
Nicky Goose Nicky Goose 9:42 am 09 May 21

Flexible work hours are a fabulous idea and frankly in a modern society and economy why we don’t push them more is beyond me

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 8:22 am 09 May 21

They could really accelerate light rail construction, funded by proper congestion charging.

consumeradvocatecanberra consumeradvocatecanberra 1:33 pm 08 May 21

Most folk don’t get it. Canberrans love their cars and have done so for 30 years. It’s quick and convenient. But, imagine carpooling (after finding someone who is not a murderer to travel with), and that could take 50% of cars off the road. Labor advisor says there is no spare capacity on the highways. But imagine if just 67 people got the bus to work. that is 65 car space on the road freed up. Nope, don’t want to do that either. How about talking to the commuters in the catchments and find out their preferences. Wow! Imagine-no guessing, just real data and match it with real routes that commuters can commit to. A no brainer for the majority of us but sadly not those running things….move on Labor. You don’t get it.

Lucy Jane Lucy Jane 12:40 pm 08 May 21

4 day week for everyone but everyone gets a different day off. Will help immensely with traffic congestion and has been trialed elsewhere.

Ronnie Adams Ronnie Adams 8:06 am 08 May 21

Helicopter 🚁

Grant Grant Grant Grant 8:24 am 07 May 21

🤣 Canberra 'peak hour traffic'. Try commuting in Sydney or Brisbane. Stop your whinging

Carole Ford Carole Ford 9:17 am 06 May 21

No kidding!!! Let's start the ball rolling on a complete new way of living, 24/7 in 3 8 hour shifts. Let's see how this works for the countless institutions that operate on daylight hours?! 👀🤦☀️🌑🦉🐓

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 11:04 am 07 May 21

    Carole Ford lol your happy to get a phone call from a business at 3am?

Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 8:58 am 06 May 21

Surely we could be a more 24/7 culture.

Less chance for damage to things if more people are awake and doing stuff?

Steve Aust Steve Aust 4:59 am 06 May 21

Working from home is over... and no one wants to be stuck on public transport with coughing or sneezing people

Chris Miller Chris Miller 11:20 pm 05 May 21

I already work staggering hours

Stephen Harris Stephen Harris 9:53 pm 05 May 21

I have said for years Australia should have deregulated shopping/business hours, or at least maybe 7am to 7pm for businesses and more for general shopping, to help promote extra employment while easing the traffic concentrations and allowing 9 to 5 workers more opportunity time to shop, bsnk etc.

9 to 5 business days are draconic ideology in these days of increasing automation and unemployment.

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 11:03 am 07 May 21

    Stephen Harris if 9-5 workers suddenly have to work from 7am-7pm how will they all suddenly be able to shop bank etc when the expectation will be to work those hours?

    Stephen Harris Stephen Harris 11:17 am 07 May 21

    Julian Hayes hello, they will not have to. The businesses will be open for those hours for 60 hours or more a week if they like . I'll let you nut out the rest for yourself.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:57 am 07 May 21

    Julian Hayes Funny 🙄. Let's explain this simply. The businesses will be open from 7am to 7pm, and people will work the hours they normally do between those hours, not from 7am to 7pm.

    I used to work in a job with a couple of other people. Our section functioned from 8am to 6am. We each worked a 36 hour week. Think on it.

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 11:58 am 07 May 21

    Julie Macklin so your expecting businesses to all operate via these hours? small business?

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 11:59 am 07 May 21

    and school? will it start at 7am and finish aty 7pm now? working parents?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:00 pm 07 May 21

    Julian Hayes I'm not expecting anything of the sort, as you should know, as it's not up to me. It's an option. I haven't read anywhere that people will be forced to do this. Their choice, which you have no right to suggest otherwise.

    Why are you so worried about this?

    Stephen Harris Stephen Harris 1:36 pm 07 May 21

    Julian Hayes it could be an option for businesses to operate longer and more flexible hours which may increase their turn over and allow them to employ extra staff to cover multiple shifts as they may need.

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 1:42 pm 07 May 21

    Because I've seen the truth employers simply make their employee's work a 12 hour shift as its still within not having to pay overtime rates, more employee's means greater payroll tax more super etc why bother getting extra people in? and there is no guarantee it'll increase turn over but it will increase associated running costs.

    Stephen Harris Stephen Harris 11:15 pm 09 May 21

    Julian Hayes thenif it increases their costs but not their profits then they will stop doing what they are doing and do it differently- if they have an ounce of business sense.

Megan Chapman Megan Chapman 8:56 pm 05 May 21

Takes me an hour to get from Macgregor to Fyswick daily 🤷‍♀️😭

    Kylie Jay Kylie Jay 11:22 pm 08 May 21

    Megan Chapman took me 40 minutes to get from Queanbeyan West to Tuggeranong on a week day which would normally take 15 on a weekend.

Ken Beck Ken Beck 8:34 pm 05 May 21

I think they’re “staggered” enough. Lucky we don’t live in a “major” capital city. We’ve got a good road system, people just don’t know how to drive and road courtesy is non existent.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:40 pm 05 May 21

The virus has obviously been a disrupting and complicating factor, but this really does look a lot like pigeons coming home to roost for a government which has now had two decades to deliver good transport options which meet the needs of Canberrans – but ideology, political imperatives, and a ham-fisted pursuit of revenue objectives have taken priority over that.

The item run by ABC TV news last weekend – which was fairly obviously meant to be helpful to the ACT Government – was, if anything, just another illustration of the contradictions at play in this policy space in Canberra –

Hearing a minister in what claims to be the most progressive government in Australia running Thatcheresque economist rationalist talking points about user pays was truly striking.

Iaian Ross Iaian Ross 6:42 pm 05 May 21

This is a problem for traffic engineers to solve.

    Michael Roy Michael Roy 9:18 am 09 May 21

    Iaian Ross unfortunately the typical traffic engineer approach is add more traffic lanes which we know doesn't work, what is needed is good planners and the political will to support the right changes including public transport, active travel infra, amount others including flexible/staggered work hours and working from home opportunities.

Kieran May Kieran May 6:35 pm 05 May 21

It’s called flex time. Works well for the biggest employment sector.

Harry Sotiropoulos Harry Sotiropoulos 6:15 pm 05 May 21

How about letting people just work from home.

    Chris Jones Chris Jones 7:29 pm 05 May 21

    Private sector for the win!!

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 11:01 am 07 May 21

    Harry Sotiropoulos that works well for trades and services doesnt it

Juz Hawke Juz Hawke 6:14 pm 05 May 21

It's a great idea! Less traffic on the roads in peak times, less people in the office buildings and using lifts. I like it!

Steven Cox Steven Cox 6:03 pm 05 May 21

Public service staging of start hours has been around for some decades. Its called Flextime and has been available at least since the early 1980s. The only issue is some idiot decided that it should not be used in some departments as people might cheat on their hours. Since the mid 1990s the roads have clogged up as a result. Add to this the ACT government’s desire to be just like other cities thoroughly messed up the neatly planned capital. The plan was for people to work in the satellite city in which they lived. But ACT Gov. decided to do their best to have as many of their departments in Civic – so they could have a “real” CBD and charge higher land rates.

    Maya123 Maya123 1:53 pm 07 May 21

    We had flexitime and we had clocks, do there was no way someone could cheat on their hours. Whether the individual actually worked when they got to work, that’s another problem. Long smoke breaks and the like, and doing as little work as possible. However, that’s how it has always been. Fortunately the smoker didn’t last.

Chris Skene Chris Skene 4:58 pm 05 May 21

So let me get this right... they want the public service to (checks notes)... be sufficiently flexible and adaptive to vary its operating hours across departments?

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